July 21, 2022

Children’s Hospital sees increase in children poisoned by THC in marijuana edibles

They resemble candy. They taste like candy. Some children have ended up in intensive care.

View of a male hand holding a colorful CBD infused medicinal candy gummy used for healing

What was once a random emergency room encounter is becoming more common – young children requiring treatment after ingesting THC-infused products.

Edibles, infused with THC — the substance that’s primarily responsible for the effects of marijuana on a person’s mental state — are consumed in small portions by adults, said Marla Levine, MD, associate professor of Pediatrics in the Department of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

“It’s a danger to small children and is completely preventable.”

In the past six months, Levine and colleagues have seen an increase in the number of small children requiring treatment for toxic exposure after ingesting the THC-infused products.

“These edibles resemble candy, and to young children, they probably even taste like candy,” said Levine. “They are not stopping at one bite or a nibble. They are consuming the entire piece or possibly pieces. They have no understanding that there are drugs inside.

“The doses that are in these products vary. There is no standardization. Children are exposed to a much higher dose of the drugs leading to a dangerous and oftentimes toxic level in their systems.”

Levine reports children requiring immediate medical attention for excessive vomiting, seizures, altered states of consciousness and severe depression in breathing that has led to the need for intubation and admission to the pediatric intensive care unit.

The message: please store these products safely out of reach of children.

“You should be using the same vigilance in ensuring the safety of your child that you would with any other dangerous object in your household whether that’s medication or a gun,” said Levine. “You have to treat these products the same way. It’s a danger to small children and is completely preventable.”

The Tennessee Poison Center has reported 46 THC or marijuana exposures in children 5 years old and younger in the past six months.

The 24-hour hotline, 1-800-222-1222, is staffed by registered nurses, pharmacists and physicians. It is available for hearing impaired and non-English speakers.

Photo: iStock